Writing and Revising: Get In. Get Out. Try Not to Kill Any Innocents.
I correspond with various folks from time to time. I’m sharing a letter I wrote to one individual only this morning when he asked me the following:
To paraphrase, he asked if creating concise, evocative writing is something I can create when I crank out a first draft or if the refinement only comes through via revision?
Here’s my response:
I’ve been writing a long time now (not simply counting industry years) and it’s not for the faint of heart. The trick to keep in mind is RPGs are essentially technical manuals embedded in a work of fiction. The author must strive to develop and maintain a voice, as you have pointed out. You need to decide going in what voice you want to take. My technique is clarity trumps style while style trumps dryness. When I started out, I wrestled with new mechanics (Savage Worlds was in its infancy) and creating a world (RunePunk) from whole cloth—a double whammy. It taught me a lot.
Rules should be written clearly and succinctly. You don’t want to leave any play room in their for misinterpretation, however you don’t want to go overboard with excruciating bits of detail. Get in. Get out. Try not to kill any innocents.
The world information allows space for letting your hair down and delving into delicious bits of nebulosity as you see fit. Those dark corners are spaces to be explored by the GM as whimsy strikes.
Now, I’ve taken a long prefatory to get to a short answer. My first draft work is generally pretty tight, but not perfect. Generally, a draft needs some light edits (such as grammar corrections or tense shifts here and there or slight reorganization), but not much. I’ve got a methodology down and I’ve put in a lot of time at the keyboard. The only way to get better is to stick with it. You’ve got the motivation and dedication, but you lack clear focus. From reading your blog, I see where your vision shifts. This can happen, so time is sometimes more wisely spent by taking a step back, outlining the project, and setting expectations and evaluating your work and being honest with yourself. Regarding your last point, I think you made a fair assessment and breakthrough in seeing your work is more textbook than fantasy treatise. Now, armed with said knowledge, you can decide what type of voice and tone is most suitable for your work. I believe the books on your list should aid you in this pursuit.
Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!